Monday, August 20, 2007

Beating Palestinian Children, Ongoing Human Rights Violations

Ramallah, 19-08-07: Footage captured by an independent American filmmaker on Wednesday 15 August, showing Israeli soldiers beating, spitting on and throwing stones at three Palestinian children offers yet further proof that Israel's 543 permanent and 610 'flying' checkpoints "are sites of systematic torture and human rights violations against Palestinian civilians", said veteran human rights activist, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP at press conference held in Ramallah today.

The footage was captured at the Ras at-Tira checkpoint in the Qalqiliya District, and shows the three children attempting to cross the checkpoint in a horse cart when they are stopped by two Israeli soldiers. The female soldier is clearly shown beating the boys before spitting on them and sending them back the way they came. Her male colleague is then seen picking up stones from the ground and throwing them at the children as they drive away.

Dr. Barghouthi said the beatings were reminiscent of the physical assault of 18-year old university student Mohammad Jabali by Israeli soldiers near the notorious Huwwara checkpoint in Nablus on 18 March 2007. Four Israeli soldiers punched and kicked Jabali in the face, head and genitals, causing bleeding and a blood clot in his right testicle. Jabali had to undergo surgery and to have part of the testicle removed.

Footage of both attacks is available from the Palestine Monitor: Contact Bahia, Tel: +972-599-940073.

Checkpoints: Barriers between Life and Death

Israeli checkpoints are the settings of less overt yet equally insidious human rights violations, tragically illustrated by the death of 18-year-old Radi Alwahash, who died at a checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem on 29 June 2007. Alwahash was being transferred to
hospital in Jerusalem in an Israeli Magen David Adom ambulance after being critically injured in a traffic accident. Israeli border police and civil administration staff refused to let the ambulance cross the checkpoint and held it there for an hour and a half while Alwahash's
body systems failed, claiming that the teenager was a 'security risk.'

Dr. Barghouthi stated that Israeli checkpoints are the frequent scenes of Palestinian deaths. Since September 2000, 69 Palestinian women have given birth at Israeli checkpoints. Five women and 35 newborn babies have died as a result.

A recent study on perinatal and infant mortality published together with the John Hopkins University found that four out of every 1,000 Palestinian children born die before the age of one, a factor linked to Israel's matrix of movement restrictions in the West Bank.

Human Shields

Dr. Barghouthi underlined that Palestinian children are the victims of other forms of violations by the Israeli military, citing the case of 14-year old Rena Mufid who was used as a human shield by an Israeli unit during a raid on Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip on 12 July 2007. Troops from the same unit fired on the girl after their colleagues had sent her into a house they had surrounded, hitting her in the stomach and leg.

Dr. Barghouthi stressed that this was not an isolated incident, but just one facet of a policy of consistent human rights violations on the part of the Israeli military. He referred to another incident whereby 11-year-old Jihan Daadush was also used as a human shield by Israeli
soldiers during an incursion into Nablus in February this year.

The practice of using human shields is illegal under both the Fourth Geneva Convention and under Israeli law itself. [2]

Child Deaths and Injuries

The vulnerability of Palestinian children and youth to the deleterious effects of the occupation is further evident in conflict-related mortality and morbidity statistics, which reveal that 959 Palestinian children have been killed by the Israeli army since 28 September 2000.
In addition, over 20,000 have been injured in the same period, of whom some 1,500 have sustained life-long disabilities because of their injures.

Of the 76 Palestinians killed between 16 June and 15 August 2007, 6 have been children. In addition, 24 of the 210 Palestinians injured during the same period have also been children. No Israelis have been killed during the same time period.

Dr. Barghouthi called urgently on the Palestinian Authority to take decisive measures in protesting these violations, stressing that what Palestinians need is not VIP passes for some politicians and businesspeople to cross checkpoints, but freedom of movement for all
Palestinians in safety, particularly schoolchildren and those requiring healthcare.


[1] The village of Ras at-Tira, with a population of 445 people, lies near the Israeli settlement of Alfe Menashe. It is surrounded by the Apartheid Wall on three sides, while the planned construction of a further section of the Wall will completely imprison the village, leaving three Israeli military-controlled gates as its only exit points.

[2] Article 28 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that "The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations."; In a ruling by Israeli Supreme Court on 6 October 2005, Judge Aharon Barak stated that "You cannot exploit the civilian population for the army's military needs, and you cannot force them to collaborate with the army."